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What Marketers can Learn from NFLs Mistake During Hispanic Heritage Month?

PUBLISH DATE: 07 October 2022

Many companies are looking forward to marking Hispanic Heritage Month, however, recent high-profile mistakes have set an example on what not to do, just in hopes to appeal to a Latino audience.

Let’s be honest, some marketing efforts are outright cringeworthy, utilizing tacos, sombreros, and the Mexican flag in hopes of making an impact on members of the Hispanic community, according to Trinidad Aguirre, a Hispanic marketing consultant.

Aguirre further added that some companies do put forth genuine efforts to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place from September 15 to October 15, annually, whereas, there are others that just see it as a chance to bring in extra business.

According to the most recent U.S. census data, Hispanic or Latino people constitute to 19% of U.S. population (62.1 million). And with an estimated $1.9 trillion in buying power, it’s important for companies and organizations to be on point with their messaging.

The National Football League (NFL) made a strong start but fumbled down along the way. NFL decided to celebrate and honor this month by sending a tweet an image for their “Por La Cultura” campaign. As soon as the tweet went live, both NFL fans and critics were quick to comment, creating a social media debate, blasting the design which was intended to celebrate Hispanic and Latino players.

So, how can a campaign intended to uplift landed in such a negative impact? Where did the brand go wrong with the campaign? And more importantly, what lessons can marketers take away so that they don’t make this same mistake?

The National Football League’s homage to Hispanic Heritage Month was a huge success, until the organization decided to toss a tide over the N word in their logo which create a social media storm. Many Twitter users described the league’s attempt lazy approach to reach the Hispanic community.

According to the Diversity Style Guide, Ñ is an additional, unique letter in the Spanish alphabetical world – it’s just not an N with an accent mark called a tilde.

This misuse of a character is vital to the Spanish language and is another example of “diversity washing.” This mistake likely sent a message that the community did not have a seat at the table or any input for this campaign.

Though the Por La Cultura campaign was otherwise well done as NFL did a good job of incorporating multiple Hispanic communities, and not just people of Mexican heritage in a 30-second ad, which clearly shows a diverse group of Hispanic people, has a sense of family, Aguirre said.

Nonetheless, here are the key takeways from the NFL campaign which marketers should take a note of.

Don’t Divert and Focus on the Key Message

The organization is still getting criticized for its lack of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, including allegations of racial discrimination. The campaign came wanted to hit the hearts of the Hispanic community but missed a meaning moment to show commitment to their DEI journey.

In their press release, NFL stated the intended key message of their “Por La Cultura” campaign was to highlight Latino players, coaches and staff. Celebrate their excellence and tell their authentic stories. However, many feel that instead of the image, NFL should have started with the stories and the voices of the players, coaches and staff.

Thus, this is a reminder for marketers to stay focused on the key message and objective of the ad campaign. Don’t be persuaded or convinced to post an image just because someone else thinks it’s okay.

Voice the concerns of the community. Remind yourself of the impact you are hoping to make.

Sometimes, it’s Best to Sit it Out

Lastly, sometimes, it’s just best to sit it out. Wait until you are ready. Don’t give in to the pressure of participating, showing up, honoring, or celebrating a heritage month or any important cultural moment if you aren’t ready to do so.

In the case of the NFL, their goal was probably to reach a huge audience. yet it’s clear from the campaign’s creative that there are not enough Hispanic voices which contributed for this work. It could have been best to stay on the bench this time around and wait for the right moment to showcase their commitment to serve and be an ally to the Hispanic community.